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Dean’s Blog: Rankings value access and growth – for all

Dean Fernando Miralles-Wilhelm

Around this time each year, the higher education community is abuzz with discussions of program rankings. And here at George Mason University, it’s no different. This week, according to a variety of credible sources including U.S. News and World Report Best Colleges 2024, Mason continues to rise in many various ranking assessments. Most notably this year, the rankings have taken the element of social mobility into account, and our university reputation is on the rise -- #51 among all public universities and #105 among all universities nationwide. Across the U.S., Mason also remains a top 20 most innovative university and a top 50 university for veterans. (Just ask our service members in the signature Mason EMDP2 partnership).  

We describe the Mason Nation as “All Together Different” and the diverse, inclusive, innovative, engaging, and accessible environment we are working diligently to create and deliver is getting noticed.

Mason Science enrollment has experienced the highest percentage of growth since I became dean. Increasing 5 percent, at a time when others discuss enrollment cliffs and are consolidating programs, more and more families are counting on Mason for the academic rigor, access to opportunity, and diversity of experience and perspective that will prepare our students for a successful future. The university’s total student enrollment has surpassed 40,000 this year, a first for the Commonwealth of Virginia, including the largest freshman class in school history with 4,500 students. Mason’s graduation rates are higher than the national average. In addition, 86 percent of recent graduates are employed in the greater Washington, D.C. area and 89 percent in positions related to their career goals.

Mason attracts these students from a broader spectrum of life than any other university in Virginia. In Mason, they see a place that welcomes them and offers a proven and flexible environment to launch or continue their life journeys. Our college is an invaluable community asset, trusted partner, and source of scientific and economic growth given our role in attacking tomorrow’s most challenging problems including biodiversity, medical breakthroughs, data sciences, climate, space exploration, and crime, while bringing forward a highly skilled, diverse, and dedicated STEM workforce.

For a half century, Mason has been Northern Virginia’s hometown university and one of its central catalysts for transformation. Credited for speeding the region’s transformation into a global technology hub, and bursting into the research space as the youngest-ever university to reach top research status, Mason has also become Virginia’s largest, most diverse, and most innovative university. Our numbers of trusted Mason Science partners and program supporters continue to grow as well.

Scientists thrive in the data realm, so let me share some ranking data details with you. Mason is now a top 50 public university in the Wall Street Journal Best Colleges in the U.S.(#33, up from #95) and Forbes America’s Top Colleges (#40). In addition, as previously noted U.S. News & World Report put Mason in a tie at #51 (up from #64) among public universities, and Washington Monthly National University Rankings ranked Mason 60th among public universities.

Among all universities, both public and private, Mason earns a tied ranking of 105th from U.S. News (up from #137), 95th with the Wall Street Journal (up from #179 in 2021), 93rd with Forbes, and 91st with Washington Monthly (up from #94).

The most significant change in this year’s rankings is the addition of social mobility factors to ranking methodologies, in recognition of growing public demand for more affordable, inclusive, and accessible universities. Mason places No. 1 in Virginia across all rankings that measure social mobility. Among public universities nationwide, Mason ranks #41 with the Wall Street Journal and #34 with Washington Monthly National University Rankings, both for social mobility, and #19 in the New York Times Top U.S. Colleges with the Greatest Economic Diversity.

Our university president, Gregory Washington has stated recently and often: “All students deserve access to a college education and experience that will deliver on a promise to transform their lives and set them up for lifelong success. Mason delivers in access, innovation, excellence, and opportunity. We are not just in the education business – we are in the success business.”

You can feel the excitement as momentum continues to swell. Support of our mission is building as the Mason NOW: Power the Possible campaign kicks off for our faculty and staff this week. I’ve often said, it’s a great time to be a part of Mason Science. These ranking reflect what we know, our student centric efforts offer unique, engaging STEM academic programs and research opportunities which propel our students and our partners forward to a vibrant future for all.